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New study shows Texas' teaching environment needs tutoring

The Lone Star State ranks 19th in the U.S. for its teaching environment. Educational First Steps/Facebook

If Texas were a student, it would earn a mediocre grade when it comes to the state's atmosphere for schoolteachers. In a new study from personal finance website WalletHub, Texas ranks 19th for its teaching environment compared with the 49 other states and the District of Columbia.

While Texas earns good marks for teacher salaries, the rest of the state's grades for teachers are below average, according to WalletHub. In all, WalletHub studied 22 metrics to come up with its report card.

Texas ranks second for the average starting salary for teachers and 13th for the average salary for teachers. However, both data points adjusted for cost of living in Texas. The state also ranked 13th for the 10-year change in teachers' salaries, WalletHub says. Texas doesn't fare nearly as well in WalletHub's other measurements, though:

  • No. 29 for pupil-teacher ratio.
  • No. 30 for teacher safety.
  • No. 32 for fewest teachers per student projected for 2026.
  • No. 36 for school quality.
  • No. 36 for per-student spending in public schools. According to the National Education Association (NEA), per-student funding in Texas is $2,300 less than the national average.
  • No. 37 for teachers' potential for income growth.

A recent survey by the Texas State Teachers Association backs up the notion that the state's teachers aren't in the same class as their counterparts in places like New York, Connecticut, Minnesota, and Illinois, which were graded by WalletHub as the best states for teachers.

For instance, the Texas survey indicates that about four of every 10 teachers expect to take jobs outside the classroom to make ends meet during the academic year. In addition, the typical teacher in the survey reported spending an average of $738 a year on school supplies out of his or her own pocket.

According to the survey, moonlighting teachers in Texas average 14.1 hours a week at their extra jobs. That's on top of the 17 hours a week they spend outside the classroom on school-related work.

The Austin-based Texas State Teachers Association, an affiliate of the NEA, says the average salary of teachers in the survey was $53,221, which is $7,300 below the national average. According to the NEA, Texas ranks 29th for teacher pay.

Noel Candelaria, president of the Texas association, pins the blame for the plight of Texas teachers on Gov. Greg Abbott, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, and their legislative allies. He says they've failed to properly finance public education.

"Our teachers … remain dedicated to their students' success, even if it means spending evenings and weekends at extra jobs away from their families," Candelaria says in a release. "It's time for our elected officials at the state Capitol to demonstrate the same kind of dedication to our children by providing the necessary resources."

In August, Abbott said he wants to boost pay for the state's best teachers, putting them on a path toward earning more than $100,000 a year — without a hike in property taxes.

"Teaching is a calling; it would be hard to do otherwise," Abbott said. "But I want to ensure that teaching in Texas also becomes a profession, where we are able to attract the very best and keep the very best."

"We can and we must do more to improve education in Texas," the governor said. "As we approach this next legislative session [in 2019], one of my top goals is to improve education by investing more in our teachers and students."

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This story originally appeared on CultureMap.

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Building Houston

 
 

UH has found a way to instantly zap COVID-10. Andriy Onufriyenko/Getty Images

While the world rushes to find a COVID-19 vaccine, scientists from the University of Houston have found a way to trap and kill the virus — instantly.

The team has designed a "catch and kill" air filter that can nullify the virus responsible for COVID-19. Researchers reported that tests at the Galveston National Laboratory found 99.8 percent of the novel SARS-CoV-2 — which causes COVID-19 — was killed in a single pass through the filter.

Zhifeng Ren, director of the Texas Center for Superconductivity at UH, collaborated with Monzer Hourani, CEO of Medistar, a Houston-based medical real estate development firm, plus other researchers to design the filter, which is described in a paper published in Materials Today Physics.

Researchers were aware the virus can remain in the air for about three hours, which required a filter that could quickly remove it. The added pressure of businesses reopening created an urgency in controlling the spread of the virus in air conditioned spaces, according to UH.

Meanwhile, to scorch the virus — which can't survive above around 158 degrees Fahrenheit — researchers instilled a heated filter. By blasting the temperature to around 392 F, they were able to kill the virus almost instantly.

The filter also killed 99.9 percent of the anthrax spores, according to researchers.

A prototype was built by a local workshop and first tested at Ren's lab for the relationship between voltage/current and temperature; it then went to the Galveston lab to be tested for its ability to kill the virus. Ren says it satisfies the requirements for conventional heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) systems.

"This filter could be useful in airports and in airplanes, in office buildings, schools and cruise ships to stop the spread of COVID-19," said Ren, MD Anderson Chair Professor of Physics at UH and co-corresponding author for the paper, in a statement. "Its ability to help control the spread of the virus could be very useful for society."

Medistar executives are also proposing a desk-top model, capable of purifying the air in an office worker's immediate surroundings, Ren added.

Developers have called for a phased roll-out of the device, with a priority on "high-priority venues, where essential workers are at elevated risk of exposure — particularly schools, hospitals and health care facilities, as well as public transit environs such as airplanes."

The hope, developers add, is that the filter will protect frontline workers in essential industries and allow nonessential workers to return to public work spaces.

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